Half Way Home

Although the second half of ABIDE is a week longer than the first, we have finished the first half and are technically half way through and we now have a three week break.

As I write this post, I am sitting in my fiancée’s apartment drinking an energy drink (power horse…not bad!) waiting for her to get back from the gym so we can go play with some missionary kids. Unnecessary details…I know…but I like saying that I have a fiancée and love being able to rest.

However, right before this break we were able to have a four-day joint mission to Kishanje (in Kabale district). Both ABIDE houses (Mbarara and Kabale) participated, Matt (our director)’s family came wit,h and Lesley (my fiancée) also joined us. It was a huge blessing to be able to all be there together and it was an awesome time. Apparently somewhere over 400 people were saved!

I don’t know that I’ll have much interesting to post about in the next three weeks, so I would love if you have any questions for me if you would post them as comments on this post and hopefully that will give me an idea of what I should post about.

One thing I’m really excited about with this break is the time that I have to communicate with friends from home and family that I have severely neglected due to circumstance.

Thank you very much for the support and please pray that this time of rest prepares me well for the second half of this program!

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Life is Changing…

Although this is not about my travels alone, this has been the result of where God has brought me. I posted it in my personal blog but figured that many who read my travel blog and support my mission would be interested in reading about this: http://carlchomko.wordpress.com/our-story

It’s the story of my fiancée Lesley and me.

Enjoy 🙂

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Anything But Stagnant

It would be wrong to regard the last two weeks as completely terrible, but it would also be wrong to regard them as completely great. This is not at all saying that they’ve been boring, as they’ve been anything but.

The past two weeks have consisted of the following positive things:

  • My good friend, Dan Lee from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, spent about a week with me
  • I was able to travel to Kampala with Dan and Lesley (my girlfriend) and the Trinity team was able to meet Lesley
  • I was able to stay in Kampala for an extra night after the team left and have a slow trip back to Mbarara
  • I was able to stay in Mbarara a few extra days and got to teach part of the Spiritual Leadership class and help the guys with preparing for leading a worship service on Sunday
  • My ear infection went away
  • There is plenty more that went well

However, they’ve also consisted of the following negative things:

  • Some mixture of the travel and climate changes rendered me sick for about a week
  • Immediately following feeling better, I started feeling more ill in a more serious way (although I’ve found out that I’m okay and have medicine to help with the symptoms I have)
  • Our water and electricity still don’t always work in our house (this won’t likely change but it’s still something that gets under my skin)
  • I’ve seen a bit of how men tend to view women here and it hits home a bit more having a girlfriend here

Maybe I’m forgetting things, but it sure looks to me like the positives outweigh the negatives. Although, health issues and little things that keep occurring tend to wear away at you, so I don’t feel it right to just try and brush them off.

I feel like I’ve communicated through this journal and the last that I’m having a terrible time…which is anything but the truth. I love it here.

I have no idea where God is calling me, but beyond having school left when I get back, I am confident that my future will involve discipling youth in some context. I love getting to see God work in young men’s lives and getting to be reminded of how much he’s done and is still doing in my own life.

This Wednesday, I get to participate on a call that I have been on the other end several times for in the past. It’s a call from the Trinity International University chapel during their mission week to call missionaries from Trinity around the world. I am incredibly humbled to be in a place right now where I am able to be on the other side of this conversation.

There’s so much ahead in these next 4.5 months and even more after that I’m sure. I can’t wait to see where God brings me.

God is good.

Sorry I haven’t posted more pictures, here are a few though!

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Dan teaching Spiritual Leadership for Kabale House

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Lesley and me

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Dan taking a picture of hundreds of girls dancing like there’s no tomorrow during worship

 

 

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Joyful in the Hope of Perseverance

I was wearing away little-by-little, but I didn’t realize it until it hit me.

There is so much about being in a different culture that makes it hard to be yourself and feel “comfortable.” Whether or not it’s good for us to feel “comfortable” is not the question, but when you go from living your whole life that way and then become fully immersed somewhere that is not, it’s hard.

I struggled a lot with feeling weak and like I should be able to handle this. Thankful I have friends who care about me too much to let me stay in that place.

The director from my program is primarily by the other house (2.5 hours away) and I’m only up in that town once every two weeks (regularly). He visits us about once every other week as well, so I get to see him most weeks…but that isn’t “regular” interaction.

My only regular in person interaction is with Ugandans.

I love Ugandans, don’t get me wrong, but after spending two months here, I’ve come to see just how different our cultures are. Now I’m sure this isn’t the only time that I will struggle with this or think about these things, but this is the first time it’s hit me this hard. Going straight from an ear infection to feeling a bit sick (sore throat and cough) has not helped much.

There are many things that I miss, and listing them isn’t going to help anything, but that doesn’t minimize the fact that God has me here and he’s already shown me quite a few reasons for that.

I trust that these “trials” are certainly going to lead to perseverance, and that is a reason to be joyful.

To be positive amidst this all, I recently was able to travel to Rwanda and visit my friend Eli and spend about a day and a half with him in both Rwanda and Uganda. That was awesome. I also currently have my friend Dan staying at the house in Kabale with me for the week and then will head up to Mbarara and subsequently Kampala to get to see the Trinity team (who brought me a ton of stuff and many of whom I miss) and spend the weekend out there for a mini-vacation.

This has all come just as culture-shock has hit me the hardest. God knew and he has provided. I don’t know where I’d be without these things he’s brought with the difficulty, but I know that it wouldn’t be a good place.

God is good.

Thank you for your prayers and support. God is doing something great in me and I know for a fact that I will never be able to be the same person I was before I came back out here this time. Thank you for making this possible. God bless you.

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Admitting Inadequacy is Not Easy

As I mentioned in my last post, I have an ear infection.

I’m not sure if I thought to mention, but today we are to head to the town of one of our students, Nelson Mandela (yes, that’s his real name), to minister. We woke up at 5am (It’s almost 6:30am here) and are to set of at 7am. However, I had to make a decision that was very hard for me.

I’m not going with them.

Not only am I missing a chance to see Nelson’s home and family (which is very important here), but I’m missing an opportunity to preach tomorrow morning in the church service, which I haven’t been able to do in a while and was excited about getting to do with the guys around.

If you know me really well, you not only know what a big deal this ear infection could be based on my history, but you also might happen to know that I have a very hard time admitting that I’m unable to do something. When I don’t have time, I will often apologize and say I’m not able to, but when I don’t have strength, I try to power through often on my own and ignore God’s call to rest.

This morning I had to stop and ask myself, “is it better I go and do this and keep my pride but possibly have this ear infection get worse, even to the point of needing to leave the country or is it better that I humbly admit that I need to rest and set a better example for the guys in taking care of themselves?” If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others or teach others to take care of themselves.

This is me admitting that I can’t do this by my own strength and need rest. Please pray that I will recover quickly and not miss out on anything else. I will be resting most of the day, spending time in prayer for the team while awake, and also traveling into town to hopefully be able to find the ear drops that I need.

Thank you for the prayers and support.

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Prayers Welcome

Something that I had feared going into this trip was, what would happen if I got an ear infection.

To some, this might seem like an oddly specific thought, but if you know me well, it’s likely you know I have a bad history with ear infections dating back further than I can remember. It’s through these that I’ve had to wear hearing aids for the last 7 years, have had three surgeries on one ear (consecutive Summers: 2007, 2008, and 2009), and now have to be incredibly careful not to get water in my left ear…which leads me to not swim very often…which was something I used to love to do but now get too concerned about what could happen.

The reason your prayers are welcome, is this fear has been actualized.

When I first arrived, I would every once in a while feel a bit of moisture in my ear as if a drop of water had just fell in…but things got better after a day or so. However, yesterday the same sensation occurred…and then started to hurt a bit and wouldn’t go away.

I went to visit one of the AIM team members who is a doctor, Derek, and he let me know that it looked red/irritated behind my eardrum and in my throat a bit, so he suggested I go get some Amoxicillin.

I am now taking the medicine and with a mixture of factors (including travel and not sleeping enough) I’m feeling fairly out of it.

We have a mission this weekend to a student’s home, so I would love prayers that the Spirit would strengthen me and I would be well soon.

Thank you for the prayers and support.

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Who Am I?

Don’t be confused by the title of this message. I know who I am. I know who I am in Christ and I know who I am based on where I’m from and where I’ve been and who God has been molding me into…but this is a question like that presented in Psalm 8,

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

My question is not one of identity, but one of value. I know that I am valuable because I am a son of God…but it still baffles me. I’ve had several conversations in the last couple of days with leaders out here and have been incredibly affirmed in my own ministry. However, within that is the question of, who am I that God has chosen to do this work through me. He could do this through anyone, but he’s chosen me for this work.

That’s humbling.

In spite of all I’ve done in the past, in spite of who I’ve been, in spite of my own apprehensions and preferences, in spite of my own stubbornness; God has worked in spite of me, in me and through me. (I don’t know how to write this out with proper grammar…but I feel this communicates how I would say this out loud fairly well).

Getting to hear the impact that I have had on some of the guys, the impression that I have given and left on people, the perception of me by many, and all of these different things are evidence of God’s grace.

If I were left to myself and my own devices, I would be as good as dead and living a life that looks quite different. However, by God’s grace and love, I am who I am and I’m becoming who he wants me to be. It’s hard not to smile in thinking about the fact that I am where I am and who I am, not by my own doing, but by God’s and through the support of friends and family both monetarily, morally, and prayerfully.

I cannot boast in where I am or who I am. God has done this through his spirit and the body of Christ.

So good.

Thank you.

 

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Children As The Present Tense Future

This last weekend, we went to work with the Juna Amagara children’s school in Rubanda (fairly close by, also in the mountains). It was a great time of having fun worship/singing together, teaching them to memorize Bible verses to present, songs to present (some even did dances), and we also taught them about hygiene. Many of them do not have parents or have at least lost one parent. It was awesome to be able to have fun with them and see the smiles on their faces and hear them laugh.

Pastor Bernard, our House Administrator, is exceptionally good with kids. He went around high-fiving each kid when we first arrived and you could see how excited they got about it. His youthful energy (despite being 50 years old) is contagious, especially when he dances or leads a song.

Mateyo Fred, one of the ABIDE 2013 students in Kabale, preached on Matthew 19:14,

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

And when I gave our morning devotional before we left, I spoke on Genesis 8:21,

The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

Pastor Bernard likes to talk about how children are not only the leaders of the future, but also the present and we need to stop only thinking of them in future terms because right now matters (does the title of this post make a little more sense now?). I shared what I did that morning in light of Pastor Bernard’s views as well as the Scripture that Fred would be sharing on with the kids to remind them that our impact on them matters. Sometimes we view children as these innocent, little angels who can do no wrong (they know not what they do), but really…our inclinations at birth are evil. We tend to do things that are selfish unless we are taught the opposite.

The more we disregard children and refrain from speaking truth into their lives, the larger disservice we do them. Yes, wisdom comes from experience, but knowledge is often taught. Don’t just assume that children need to experience everything to truly live life. Impart what you have learned when they are able to understand (usually sooner than we give them credit for) so that they might grow to seek the Lord and not have to live through all of the same mistakes that we have.

I had a great conversation this last week over some indian food and one thing we talked about was the understanding of grace from those who know they have sinned much and those who don’t realize how much they’ve done against God. We were able to refer to a friend who has really not done any outrageous things, but has a great understanding of God’s grace. Then we talked about other people we’ve known who have lived sheltered lives and become Pharisaic in their views of grace and others’ sin. We also spoke of people who said they wish they had stories more like ours. This is something that I want to make clear to those reading this who have not made any huge mistakes in life: learn from others mistakes to avoid the pain they bring. I would never wish the hatred that I’ve felt for myself in the past from my sins on anyone ever.

Pastor Bernard referred to Revelation 12:11 last night to explain why our testimonies are so important,

They triumphed over him
    by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
    as to shrink from death.

It’s not only through Christ’s blood that we wage war against evil, but also through the testimony of others. Let us learn from one another and share our lives so that we might keep others from making the same mistakes we’ve made.

Train up children and leaders for the future now, especially in light of Matthew 6:34.

 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

If we’re too focused on the future we miss the present. Be where you are and do what you can now; today has enough trouble for you to attend to.

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Missionary from Christ Church reflects on Uganda

Missionary from Christ Church reflects on Uganda

Here is the article that was written about my trip by Donald Liebenson for the Chicago Tribune!

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An Attitude Of Joy

For the past four years, I have had the Greek word “χαρά” tattooed on my left wrist. This word means “joy” and comes from James 1:2-4,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I had to explain this to a student the other day and he inquired “Joy? So…like happy?” and I had to explain the difference (as in many of the local languages, they are both translated the same way) and that happiness is an emotion that results from good experiences and joy is an attitude that is chosen. Within even saying this, I was both encouraged in how much God has grown me in the past few years, though quite convicted about how sparingly I’ve chosen joy in the past…even with this tattoo as a reminder.

I’ve already been sick 3 or 4 times since I’ve been here, my suitcase of clothes and other stuff was soaked on our way here, the water in the house that I’m in doesn’t always work, there are no people from my own culture in the town I live in, my computer screen has been broken, our power is very unreliable, and the list goes on.

All of these things listed are things that would have straight up made me frustrated in the past. However, I’ve kept an attitude of joy and have really felt blessed by where the Lord has me and what he’s been doing in me.

Please do not take this post as me boasting in myself. I am boasting in the Lord and saying, come and listen to what he’s done in and for me. God is so incredibly good and I hate that it took coming here to realize quite how good he is.

I also don’t want to communicate that my life here is terrible and I’m having a great attitude despite everything going wrong for me.

Barely anything (nothing of importance) was destroyed in my bag from it getting soaked, my computer screen could be much worse (it’s only the glass, not the LCD screen), the juice here is amazing, the people I work with are amazing, I got to have a great 2.5 hour conversation with our director on Wednesday on my way to Mbarara, I got to spend 5.5 hours with a good friend of mine yesterday (including indian food), my friend Andrew will be spending a week with me soon, we just got a water tank, I’ve met some amazing people since I’ve been here, God has been growing me in my prayer life and I can tell he has a lot ahead, an article is going to be in the Chicago Tribune about me and my experience…the list goes on much further than the one with what hasn’t gone “right”.

Always remember your blessings, and even consider the hard times to be blessings because you know that God is always doing something. Growing in godliness is not an easy thing…in fact, as I’ve finally been learning…it hurts quite a bit at times.

It hurts to have your heart broken what what breaks God’s heart. It hurts to get a picture of what our unfaithfulness feels like to him. Many people see God as a vengeful God who loves hurting people and squishing us like ants…I have yet to see that from the Lord. I’ve seen that from rulers, from “gods,” from common people, and from the devil who tries to drag everyone down with him…but the God I know, he is one whose heart is burdened by our unfaithfulness and by our skewed concepts of him. He is so full of love that he hurts when we hurt. If you’ve never read it, “Lament for a Son” is a great book I read on suffering and it helped me understand that part of God quite a bit better.

This post has been much longer than I expected it to be, but I hope that what I’ve said is worth your while to read. I had no idea where I was going with this at the start, but I have a feeling the Holy Spirit had something to say.

Be blessed. God is good.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirithimself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:18-30)

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